Criminal Justice

If You Know Too Much About Poppies, You Can Lose the Farm (and Go to Jail)


Last July the Kennewick, Washington, Tri-City Herald profiled Poppydog Farms, a new local business selling dried pods from poppies grown on 40 acres in Pasco. The operation had attracted 2,400 customers from across the country, including wholesalers as well as consumers. "Every single day we're getting new customers," enthused co-owner Ken French. "It's turned out to be a lot more successful than we ever dreamed." The paper explained that "crafters use the pods for ornamentation," while "florists grow red, pink and white-and-purple flowers with the seeds." French described the flowers as "stunningly beautiful." 

They are also sort of illegal, a point that police clarified when they arrested French and his wife, Shanna, for unlawful delivery of a controlled substance less than four months after their business was featured in the Herald. Although Papaver somniferum is commonly used in gardening, floral arrangements, and food, it is also listed on Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act as "opium poppy." That status usually means a substance can be produced and distributed only by people licensed to do so. But since the plant is widely grown in the United States by people ignorant of its identity as the source of opium, drug warriors generally do not bother with it. They made an exception in French's case after he allegedly told detectives with a regional drug task force that tea made from crushed poppy pods could be used to relieve pain or improve one's mood. Police say he also announced that he sold the pods strictly for "ornamental purposes," adding, "That's my story, and I'm sticking to it."

A few weeks after the Frenches were arrested, state prosecutors announced that they would not be pursuing charges against them. Although that sounds like good news, it may only have signaled that the feds were taking over the case. The Justice Department has moved to seize the couple's land, arguing that it is the site of an "ongoing drug enterprise," and their lawyer, Jim Egan, told the Herald he anticipates that if there are criminal charges, they will be filed in federal court. But Egan argued that the Frenches should not be held criminally liable for a business they thought was legal:

There's a plethora of evidence that Mr. Ken French [had] no idea this was an illegal activity. If he thought it was illegal, he probably would not have advertised on the Internet….He incorporated the business, got a business license and did all the things he was supposed to do in order to set up the business. He also talked to the Tri-City Herald…and said what a wonderful business it was. That's something that people who are trying to hide their criminal activities don't usually do.

Egan has a point, although the Justice Department has been known to target medical marijuana suppliers who likewise operated openly, complied with regulations, and believed their businesses to be legitimate. Then, too, the detectives' report of their conversation with French, assuming it is accurate, suggests he knew there was something potentially illicit about selling poppy pods, depending on the intended use.

The same sort of guilty knowledge proved problematic for Jim Hogshire, who did not merely acknowledge in passing the analgesic and psychoactive properties of poppy tea but wrote a whole book about it. The book, Opium for the Masses, figured prominently in the decision to arrest Hogshire in 1996, when Seattle police charged him with "possession of opium poppy, with intent to manufacture and distribute." The charges were ultimately dismissed for lack of evidence. 

[Thanks to Wally Gumboot for the tip.]

NEXT: A Drink Before You Order? Not in Utah

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  1. Poppy sales support the Taliban, so they and their farm should go straight to Gitmo. Forget federal court.

    1. It’s actually hard to tell if you’re serious.

      1. I’m not. Thanks for the vote of perfidence.

  2. Obama Officially Sworn to Second Term

    As he recited the 35-word oath administered by U. S. Chief Justice John Roberts, Obama placed his hand placed on a family Bible.

    “I did it,” Obama,51, said immediately afterward as he hugged his wife, Michelle, and daughters Sasha and Malia. “Thank you, sweetie,” he said to his wife when she congratulated him.

    He did it! He made poopy all by himself like a big boy!

    1. He didn’t build that. Someone else made that happen.

      (A half million or so obamaites, maybe)

      1. He didn’t build that. Someone else made that happen.

        (A half million or so obamaites, maybe)

        It’s all the fault of us libertarians that Obama won again. Ask Tulpa.

    2. Good luck to Obama in his first term as President.

    3. He made poopy alright!

      I’m just guessing, this doesn’t end well.

  3. Funny, this is the same part of the state dunphy was praising yesterday for its open views on pot growing and other things like hops manufacture and beer making. Looks like he was wrong again on the tolerance of Washington State.

    1. Me thinks his optimism regarding the end of the WOD is laughable.

    2. By now you should know that any man who deals in force and fraud can never be trusted argue in good faith.

      1. Is there any reason to think he wasn’t arguing in good faith on the subject? He was just wrong.

        1. He has bragged about his days working undercover. That means he is proud of paying his bills by gaining peoples’ trust for the purpose of betraying them. Can someone like that be trusted to argue in good faith about anything?

          1. An ad hominem isn’t an argument in good faith either.

            1. Questioning the honesty of arguments made by someone who has made a proud living off gaining trust for the purpose of betrayal is common sense and self preservation, not an ad hominem.

              1. Alright then it’s some other form of foolishness.

              2. Technically speaking, an argument is either valid or it isn’t valid. The motives or honesty of the person making the argument is completely irelevant to that determination.

                Where motives and honesty is relevant in evaluating testimony, which is where Dunphy falls into a problem. He is essentially testifying to us regarding the way that law enforcement handles drug investigations in his area; for the reasons sarcasmic mentions, we should not accept those depictions as being arcurate.

            2. Saying that he’s a detective who’s job it is to use subterfuge as a means to pay the bills isn’t ad hominem.

              1. Saying that his off-duty arguments aren’t in good faith because of the nature of his job IS ad hominem. You could say the same about a lawyer, a PR rep, a salesman, or a flerking customer service desk attendant at a supermarket. There are lots of jobs that involve saying things you know are misleading.

                The only time it’s even relevant to bring up good faith is if someone is offering fallacious arguments over and over and over again.

          2. Can someone like that be trusted to argue in good faith about anything?

            Well, probably. There’s nothing wrong, in principle, with tricking a person to keep them from committing harm or punish them for harm already committed. I’d argue it doesn’t violate the non-aggression principle.

            Since it’s dunfie the dog shooter the undercover bragging is probably all bullshit though. Let me guess, he brought down a couple Mafia kingpins during the day while at night he subbed in as lead guitar for the Stones while Keith Richards was on a bender and that was how he met Morgan Fairchild.

            1. You’re suggesting he should be trusted about one thing because you think he is being dishonest about something else?


              1. No. I’m simply saying being an undercover cop isn’t inherently wrong or a profession that calls a person’s integrity into question. Nothing to do with dunfie the dog shooter as an individual, who shouldn’t be trusted because he is a fake internet persona.

        2. I think he’s right. Maybe not THE END, but the beginning of the end.

          1. If this becomes a trend, and that’s a big if, it just means that MJ joins alky and tobacky as tolerated drugs. It doesn’t mean the drug war’s over, not by a long shot.

            I see absolutely no movement afoot to legalize heroin and cocaine.

            1. As I said…beginning of the end. I’ll be happy if I can legally smoke a joint before they plant me.

              1. Indeed. I think MJ might be the legalization ‘gateway’ drug. Keep in mind the feds will be out of money at some point soon.

                1. No they won’t.

              2. I dunno bout that. MJ is a fairly innocuous drug; placing it on Schedule I was ridiculous from the getgo, even if you believe in drug laws. It’s going to be much much harder to convince people to legalize more addictive and psychoactive drugs like heroin. Those are the drugs the CSA was intended for.

                1. Once pot is legal and people see that all the anti-pot propaganda is bullshit, they will be that much more skeptical about everything else. It may take time, but it will happen eventually.

              3. Denver Colorado, beautiful mountain views. Nice weather 300 plus days out of the year. Primo beer EVERYWHERE. Come on over, we welcome you.
                (p.s. as long as you are not some california liberal dipshit or Texan who can’t drive for shit…then it is Boulder for you)

  4. Guess it’s time to start narcing on the VFW.

    1. English footballers are supporting illicit drugs every November.

  5. No way dude, how crazy is that??

  6. So Balko has a nice long column in the HuffPo.So nice it is like he is angling for a media job that begins with New York and ends with Times or -er.
    There are currently around 1200 comments 90% of which are variants on:

    Oh please tell me that you are joking. I personally don’t think I could live south of the Mason/Dixon line considering all I’ve heard in the past couple of years. One of these days they hopefully will join the rest of the world in the 21st century. Between them and the middle east Arabs Ii don’t know which is worse.

    This is why we aren’t joking or trolling whenever the topic of secession comes up.

    1. ” I personally don’t think I could live south of the Mason/Dixon line considering all I’ve heard in the past couple of years.”

      This poster obviously knows his/her limitations….thank you for staying north.

      1. I dunno whether that commenter was a lib/prog or not (but it is HuffPo, so…), but I find it amazing how their ilk paint the south as a hell defined by the degeneracy of its residents whereas inner-cities are home to the “working class” oppressed by racism and income inequality.

        1. “the south as a hell defined by the degeneracy of its residents whereas inner-cities are home to the “working class” oppressed by racism and income inequality.”

          They read it in a book once….or something. Apparently, “Gone with the wind” was a docudrama filmed last Tuesday….and carpet-tea-baggers…and Boooooosh!

        2. “oppressed by racism and income inequality.”

          The white suburbanites rue the egregious stop & frisks they are subjected to by those racist redneck black NYPD

        3. They’re nasty little bigots who think their form of bigotry is acceptable since they’ve more or less got power (in the form of the cultural levers of the media/Hollywood, along with the Beltway culture).

        4. Yeah, I notice the prejudice too.
          When I went to visit my Canadian relatives this winter after moving to Northern Virginia, they all seemed to think that Northern Virginia was part of the “antebellum South”. They kept asking me questions about whether I had been to visit any old plantations yet, and making reference to the Mason Dixon line. They seemed to think the area was populated by southern redneck driving around in pickup trucks shooting their guns.

          In retrospect, their ignorance is hilarious. N. Virginia is as mainstream middle-class and suburban normalcy as you can get. It’s not even really all that white. The DC area has a huge immigrant population.

        5. I actually attempted to call one of the commenters out on the silliness of viewing corruption and incompetence in criminal forensics and the justice system as a problem for “those other people down south”. It didn’t meet with a good reception.

          Basically the net result was that I’m a racist because I don’t want those enlightened folk to call out the latent racism of the south. And you wonder why nothing changes despite years of reporting about the structural incompetence of our justice system. Oh well….

    2. And here I was told the yankee progressives were all cosmopolitan and worldly and open-minded and stuff.

      1. Hating the South IS “cosmopolitan”

      2. Not when it comes to Redneck culture, the most reviled culture in the world.

        1. Tell that to Rednex.

        2. You need to see “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil”.

    3. Another comment

      See what “states rights” will get you? Ridiculous.

      Um, what?

    4. South-envy? I suppose they’re getting so tired of electing our governors as presidents, listening to our music, and setting up vacation and retirement along our coast that they had to invent this myth that this South is “backward” to calm their insecurities?

      1. …And shopping at our superstores (for the Yankees too embarrassed to admit that picked their kids’ school supplies at Wal-Mart).

      2. “they had to invent this myth that this South is “backward” to calm their insecurities?”

        Or possibly their visceral fear of earning a well deserved, and savage ass beating for pontificating and condescending their “superior” northern prog bullshit to the first realtree/mossyoak laden inbred simpleton they see.

        STAY NORTH.

        1. My problem with the south hinges on the humidity…and heat.

          1. It’s the humidity. I can’t stand it. I live in CA, so a fairly dry heat is something I can handle. Just can’t stand the sticky air.

    5. I wonder if (s)he knows that DC is south of the Mason-Dixon line.

      1. Do you really have to ask?

        1. I try to assume the best about people I don’t know, regardless of what they say. You asshole.

  7. “Although Papaver somniferum is commonly used in gardening, floral arrangements, and food, it is also listed on Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act”

    So where does one get the seeds?

    1. I can’t believe I did not know this.

      1. Yes, as a gardener, I have actually bought seeds from catalogs before. (Shh.) You can even tell what you’re getting. The varieties are all described by their flowers (color, double vs. single, etc.), but the scientific name is listed as well. Some are Papaver rhoeas, but somniferum is the one you want.

        1. Also…I always get a pack of P. somniferum seeds with my yearly seed order (I like to grow unusual varieties of watermelons (orangeglo is my family’s favorite) and a few hot peppers, mostly). I’ve never had a single seed sprout, though I tend to err toward the side of neglect with plants. So I can’t report on the qualities of poppy tea.

          1. orangeglo is my family’s favorite

            Unless those watermelons are orange and glow, that’s blatant false advertising.

  8. What is better than poppies – the f’ing Patriots losing!

    Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh.

    1. Yeah, I’m glad the Patriot’s won’t be going although I can’t say I wanted the Ravens or 49’ers to go either.

    2. The SUPHAR-BOWL

      1. I think I said it in another comment thread here, but it’s the Harba Ugh Bowl.


      1. So did we already know you were into necrophiliac hate-fucks?

        1. This is Warty we’re talking about, so I think the answer is yes.

    4. First time since 2002 that an AFC team besides the Patriots, Steelers, or Colts went to the Super Bowl.

      1. Pats haven’t won since “SpyGate”

        1. Last time they won, Don McNabb was puking in the huddle.

      2. 2002-03 actually

    5. I fucking HATE the Harbaughs. The one who coached Stanford is a gigantic fucking asshole. Now I have to avoid Sportcenter for a month.

  9. Last I heard opium poppies are perfectly legal to grow as long as no one can prove that you know what they are.

    1. Know what what are? (Whew, now I’m legal!)

    2. “They are what we thought they are”

  10. I love reading Missed connections

    1. Be sure to let us know if you guys finally connect.

  11. Today I watched the 49ers game with a group of extended friends in Oakland. As the commercials included new movies with Bruce Willis and Ahnold, the topic of discussion somehow got around to Clint Eastwood. All these good people, liberals all, agreed that Clint’s performance at the RNC was such a disgrace, he probably has Alzheimer’s, and they don’t really think they can see a movie with him in it again.

    Without wanting to start an argument, I mildly pointed out that several movie actors had made very negative statements against Bush that were even worse — Alec Baldwin and Sean Penn came to mind. Did they think that it would be OK for some people to feel they couldn’t watch them in movies afterwards?

    Not the same thing, the unanimous answer. These were talented actors merely giving their opinions, not making fools of themselves like Clint did.

    God it can be tough to live in the Bay Area sometimes.

    1. You just got a first hand dose of the doublethink that seems to pervade statist political thought. When you agree with them, you are on the side of the angels. When you disagree, you are either mentally diseased/deficient, or in the pay of Emmanuel Goldstein/Karl Rove/Halliburton/Wall Street/the Kochtopus/etc.

      1. To be fair, Karl Rove is a bona fide scumbag.

        1. True, but still the point remains, some of these people are straight out of 1984.

        2. Neither better nor worse that Carville. Which is precisely the point – they would argue that Carville isn’t nearly as bad.

  12. You said it in the title. We have lost the farm.
    These herbs belonged to rural communities that depended on them as economic staples.
    Rural economies have lost not only opium but also cannabis as marijuana and hemp and even tobacco and alcohol which are so bound up with regulations and taxes the only people who can make any money from them are big corporations.
    Big pharma, big alcohol and the petrol chemical industry, plastics, all benefited enormously from the prohibition of some drugs and the strict regulation of others.
    Money that used to go the the rural sector is instead poured into the industrial complex.
    End the drug war and deregulate the rural economy.

  13. Actually, A few years back I read a hilarious article about someone who got addicted to opium by making poppy-head tea using dried poppy heads that he ordered online. The article went viral and was rather widely circulated. So it’s possible that the “stunning success” of this guys business might have less to do with florists and crafters and more to do with junkies buying the stuff to make opiate teas out of.

    Just saying.

    1. BTW, anyone who puts “Just saying” at the end of a comment is an asshole.

      1. You missed a golden opportunity to put a “just saying” at the end of your comment.

        Just saying.

  14. It’s like that with a number of controlled substances that are present in small amounts in common items. For example, testosterone and bufotenin in meat. Technically there’s no mens rea requirement for many of the civil violations. In fact, because we ourselves are made of meat, we’re all in violation.

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